February 22, 2010

Profile: Trapeze artist frames life in fun

Abigail Joslin

Fun. It’s the word that defines a lot of what Abigail Joslin does in her life.

Exercise and keeping fit? She started doing circus aerials — “It’s a little bit like doing yoga but off the ground” — after reading the blog of a friend who’s an acrobat. “And she’d post these amazing videos that looked like so much fun.”

Her love of board games, card games and computer games? “I think they’re a lot of fun . . . This is a theme with me.”

Joslin, senior administrative assistant to the chair of family and community nursing in the School of Nursing, uses fun as a frame and motivator for her varied life. “That’s something I look for in all my activities,” she notes.

Joslin started training at Entanglement Circus Troupe in Lithonia because she wanted to perform more, getting beyond just the fitness aspect and into teaching. She’s just started teaching beginning trapeze and lyra, a form of aerials.

Then there’s fun and games. She is in the process of starting up a nonprofit with a friend who’s a computer game developer designer. “It’s a mentoring and career development program for women getting into the computer video game industry,” Joslin says.

It’s called Getting Girls in the Game.

“We have our first small group of mentors and mentees. The main goal is to help create a community that will enable these women to function in a very male-dominated industry,” she says.  “And it really is about building community as much as anything else.”

Joslin has been playing games “forever . . . I remember playing ‘Ghostbusters’ on a Commodore 64 in the early 80s,” and she’s currently enjoying playing “Everquest II” online.

But she says, “I definitely take things seriously and I take the work that I’m doing, with aerials and games and my job, seriously. I just don’t see why it needs to be exclusively a very grim, determinedly focused, serious thing. You can be all of that, and also make it enjoyable to be around and to do.”

Joslin, who studied Italian language and literature at Smith College, is thinking of getting her MBA.  “I’m in the process of studying for the GMAT and applying to grad school. It’s pretty nerve-wracking, but one of the things I like about Emory is the opportunity for ongoing education,” she says.

Joslin landed in Atlanta three years ago. “I was coming down from Boston and I was ready to be warm in winter,” says the New Hampshire native. “It’s been wonderful. I love hundred-degree heat!

“I knew that I wanted to work at a university. It’s just such a wonderful environment to be in, especially the School of Nursing where there is a very strong core value of service and social responsibility.”

While she likes the people she works with, she’s not drawn to nursing herself because “I’m completely terrified of needles. I faint and I like my blood staying in my veins where it belongs.”

The way Joslin sees it, “Being at Emory has definitely exposed me to such a range and depth of subjects and expertise that, at best, I was only vaguely aware of. At the same time it has brought these topics much closer to home.”

The shortage of nurses is an example. “Being around nurses dealing with so many issues related to these topics makes it simultaneously feel much closer and bigger because there are so many more possibilities and dialogues going on all the time,” Joslin says.

One of the people she admires is her current manager, Maureen Kelley, chair of the family and community nursing department in the nursing school. “I love working with her because she’s very honest, she’s very fair. I’ve really come to appreciate that and it’s wonderful to be working with a manager I actively like and respect.”

Joslin adds, “I’ve definitely learned a lot about nursing and the whole field of health care through her, which I’ve just never been exposed to beyond thinking ‘oh, God, what’s my insurance going to cover,’ not fully appreciating the role that nurses play or health care in general.”

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